Personal Essays by Gay Dads

This Dad Went 'Numb' After a Painful Failed Adoption, But Learned to Love Again

After a painful failed adoption that brought these gay dads to the brink of realizing their dream of fatherhood, Paul "went numb" for several months before trying, and succeeding, again

In the fall of 2010, what was suppose to be a non-committal daytime date in Seattle, ended up being 3 days of sharing life experiences, unpacking emotional luggage and the moment I realized I had met my future husband. Just under four years later, we were saying "I Do", and became Paul and Jamie Trudel-Payne.

Jamie, a devilishly handsome All-American freelance writer, came from a tightly woven, kind and virtuous household. While I, Paul, a cute (ish) bi-racial (Mexican/Caucasian) small business owner, came from a somewhat intrusive, rambunctious and very large Hispanic family. The desire and support received from both families was immense and just six months after being married, we began the adoption process.

Wearing rose-colored glasses we quickly learned that our adoption journey was going to be anything but rosy.


We threw everything we had at our profile: Jamie's writing skills to make a deep connection to a Birthmother, and my marketing skills with a highly sought after professional photographer. We were matched after only a few months, and began talking to a birthmother who was 6 months pregnant with a baby girl. The fairytale started in hyper-speed and we were decorating a nursery, filling her closet with every adorable little girl outfit we came into contact with and fighting over baby names just like every other parent-to-be.

There were some red flags along the way that we blindly ignored, talk of extra bills and Christmas gifts. But then her 9th month of pregnancy came and we were hit with a flag that was too large to ignore. She had found out I owned a real estate company, and sent a text asking us for a large sum of money to purchase a home, making sure to not leave out how we shouldn't mention any of this to the agency.

You can't imagine the feeling of someone asking you to put a price on a child that is in essence yours, not to mention a child due in just a few weeks. We felt paralyzed by the dilemma, but after a few days of running through every scenario, we knew there was only one decision we could ethically and legally make. We contacted our agency and made the insanely difficult decision to stop the adoption along with the communication. And then we closed the door to the fairytale that never was, along with the door to our never-to-be baby girls half decorated nursery.

Just a couple of weeks later what seemed like a miracle happened. The birthmother was in labor and she wanted to give us her daughter and be done. We were ecstatic! We flew out to PA on a red eye almost immediately and spent the next four days in the NICU with a beautiful baby girl, ensuring the methadone was no longer in her system. We named her, and fed her, and changed her and learned how to bathe her. The birthmother chose to not be involved and did not come around. We were there every day from morning til night.

We were scheduled to sign all final adoption documents with the birthmother at 11:30am on day four. At 11:01am we received a call from the hospitals social worker that the birthmother changed her mind, and there was nothing we could do. We called our lawyers who quickly confirmed the same and then I had to watch as my husband broke inside. Broke in a way that I have never seen before or since.

I made a decision in that moment that would give us the best chance to make it through this horrible circumstance. I decided to go numb. I couldn't let grief, or loss or anger to escape from my body in any way; if we wanted to make it out of there with any chance of recovery from this heartbreak. So shedding no tears, I quickly began to pack our things and arranged for us to leave that self-induced nightmare immediately.

We drove to the hospital to grab any remaining items, were allowed to give one quick kiss goodbye each, and then groggy with grief we found our way to the airport while booking seats on the first flight back to Seattle. And long after we boarded that flight, in the dead of night surrounded by strangers and recycled air. With Jamie passed out from grief next to me, I allowed myself to set the numbness aside and feel again. For just a few brief minutes, I let myself cry into the sleeve of my coat and say goodbye to the daughter we had just lost for a second time.

For about six months after returning home, I made the decision to not be involved in the adoption process any longer. I removed myself from our monthly check-ins, and decided to waste no more energy on a process that almost devastated us to the point of no return. It wasn't until the spring of 2016, that the Marketing Manager from the agency asked if he could come over to talk to us in person. He wanted to check in on us and make some suggestions to refresh our profile.

We agreed and quickly there after we were matched once again. The birthmother, Trisha, was about 5 months along and we arranged to fly out and meet her. We knew from the moment we connected this would be different. She introduced us to her daughter and grandmother, who they lived with, and let us know the baby would be biracial (African American/Caucasian). She took us on our tour of their quaint lakeside town and shared with us everything you could want to know about Michigan. She then told us how good she immediately felt when meeting us, and how she could already tell from just our previous texts back and forth that we were going to be amazing fathers to "our" baby. She also explained how they couldn't afford another person in the home, and that she just wanted this child to have a chance at a life she couldn't give him. Oh yea, and she also let us know we were going to have a baby boy.

It seemed liked we had only just returned home, when we received a call from Trisha's grandmother, informing us that Trisha had gone into labor a few weeks early. It was August 1 and nearly two years from the start of our adoption journey. We dropped everything and began the quest once again to meet a baby that could possibly become our own. We arrived in the middle of the night, and were taken straight to Trisha's room to meet our son. After hugs and some tears, Trisha said she was tired and we should take our son to our room so we could also get some rest. One room away, the medical staff had set up a new parent room just for us. The nurse showed us everything in the space from diapers to formula to extra blankets. She let us know how to get ahold of her if we needed anything at all, then asked our baby's name, wrote Alexander Reneé Trudel-Payne on the board and said goodnight.

After a few days in the hospital we were given the OK to check out. Michigan adoption laws do not allow adoption finalization for 30 days, so we opted to stay in a hotel for the first month after the birth, just in case any hiccups arose during the finalization. It was a fun adventure to learn how to parent together in a small hotel room. We became friends of the staff, built routines around the lobby and room cleanings, and fell in love with our son more and more each day.

A few days before the 30th day, we received the call that all the papers were processed and finalized. We were officially the parents of a baby boy and we were free to go home.

Ander, that's what we decided as a nickname for Alexander, is now almost 3 years old. He's handsome, kind, loves being the center of attention as much as he loves being alone flipping through books or playing with cars, he's meticulously clean, full of energy and overflowing with personality and humor. He is full of life and we are so lucky to be his fathers.

Our adoption journey was definitely far from rosy, and there is nothing I could ever say to prepare someone for a loss like we first experienced. But every time I look into Ander's eyes or hear him giggle from another room, I know that however hard the journey was, it doesn't come anywhere near to the feelings of love and joy we now have with our adoption journey complete.

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News

Indiana Court Says Couples Using Sperm Donors​ Can Both Be Listed on Birth Certificate — But Ruling Excludes Male Couples

The 7th US Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the plaintiffs in the case, a major victory for LGBTQ parents — but the Attorney General may appeal to the Supreme Court.

On Friday, a US Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a ruling from a lower court that said that both parents in a same-sex relationship are entitled to be listed on the birth certificate — previously, the state of Indiana had required the non-biological parent within a same-sex relationship using assisted reproductive technologies to adopt their child after the birth in order to get her or his name listed on the birth certificate, a lengthy and expensive process not required of straight couples in the same situation.

It's a double standard LGBTQ parents have long been subjected to in many states across the country. So this represent a major win. As reported by CNN, this ruling "takes a lot of weight off" the shoulders of LGBTQ parents, said Karen Celestino-Horseman, a lawyer representing one of the couples in the case. "They've been living as families and wondering if this was going to tear them apart."

The 7th US Circuit Court of Appeals deliberated the case, according to CNN, for more than two and a half years, which is one of the longest in the court's history.

However, because all the plaintiffs in the case involved female same-sex couples using sperm donors, the ruling left open the similar question of parenting rights with respect to male couples. Indiana's Attorney General, moreover, may also appeal the case to the Supreme Court.

We'll be following the case closely and be sure to keep you up to date. For more on this recent decision, read CNN's article here.

Change the World

'Homosexuality is Wrong' Utah Teacher Tells Boy Who Gave Thanks for His Two Adoptive Dads

The substitute teacher went on to say two men living together is "sinful." She was fired shortly after.

To anyone with a heart, the moment should have done nothing more than bring a tear to the eye. Last week, just before the Thanksgiving break, a substitute teacher in a fifth grade class in Cedar Hills, Utah — just south of Salt Lake City — asked her students to name something they were thankful for this holiday season.

"I'm thankful for finally being adopted by my two dads," said Daniel, one of the boys, when it was his turn.

Rather than grab a tissue to dab her eyes, or ask the classroom to join her in a hearty round of applause to celebrate Daniel finding his forever family, the teacher took it upon herself to impart her personal religious beliefs onto the young boy. "Homosexuality is wrong," the teacher said in front of the class, adding that it was "sinful" for two men to live together.

The teacher, fortunately, was fired from Kelly Services, the substitute staffing company that employed her, quickly after the incident, but the moment is nonetheless receiving widespread attention in the press — no doubt in part because one of the boy's dads, Louis van Amstel of "Dancing With the Stars," posted a video clip to his 76,000 Twitter followers with the title: "Our child was bullied."

"It shouldn't matter if you're gay, straight, bisexual, black and white," he said to the New York Times in a follow up interview. "If you're adopting a child and if that child goes to a public school, that teacher should not share her opinion about what she thinks we do in our private life."

Louis also revealed that the moment may not have come to light were it not for three of his son's classmates, who told the principal about the teacher's bigoted comments. His son, Daniel, didn't want to report the incident for fear of getting the teacher into trouble.

Louis expressed thanks that the staffing company responded as quickly as it did following the incident — and also stressed that his neighbors and community have rallied behind he and his family in the days afterward, offering support. He wanted to dispel stereotypes that Utah, because of its social conservatism and religiosity, was somehow inherently prejudiced.

"It doesn't mean that all of Utah is now bad," he told the Times. "This is one person."

It's also true that this type of prejudice is in no way limited to so-called red states, and incidents like these happen daily. LGBTQ parents and our children are subjected to homophobic and transphobic comments in schools, hospitals, stores, airlines and elsewhere as we simply go about living our lives. These moments so often fly under the radar — many classmates don't have the courage, as they fortunately did in this case, to report wrongdoing. Some administrators are far less responsive than they were here — and most of us don't have 76,000 Twitter followers to help make these moments of homophobia a national story.

All that aside, let's also get back to what should have been nothing more than a heartwarming moment — Daniel, a fifth grade boy, giving thanks to finally being legally adopted into a loving family.

Entertainment

Amazon's New "Modern Love" Series Includes Episode on Open Adoption

The episode is loosely based on the New York Times "Modern Love" essay written by sex columnist and activist Dan Savage.

In 2005, Dan Savage, the gay sex columnist, contributed one of the most talked about essays for the Modern Love column in The New York Times. Better known for his acerbic wit and cutting political commentary, Savage exposed a more vulnerable side in this piece, sharing the highs, lows and everything in between that comes from the experience of pursuing an open adoption.

His son DJ's birth mother was experiencing what Savage called a "slo-mo suicide": homeless by choice, in and out of prison, and surrounded by drugs. Though Savage has chosen an open adoption so that DJ's birth mother would be a presence in his son's life, she often disappeared for months and sometimes years at a time without contacting the family, leaving their young son with lots of questions and no satisfying answers.

The piece ends on a heartbreaking note, with Savage simply seeking some sort of resolution. "I'm starting to get anxious for this slo-mo suicide to end, whatever that end looks like," he wrote. "I'd prefer that it end with DJ's mother off the streets in an apartment somewhere, pulling her life together. But as she gets older that resolution is getting harder to picture."

At the time, many interpreted Savage's story as a cautionary tale for those considering open adoptions. But in 2016, on the Modern Love Podcast, he asserted that was not his intention: "DJ's mom is alive and well," Savage said. "She's on her feet. She's housed. We talk on the phone occasionally. She and DJ speak on Mother's Day and on DJ's birthday." He added that he "would hate to have anyone listen to that essay or to read it — which was written at a moment of such kind of confusion and despair — and conclude that they shouldn't do the kind of adoption that we did," Savage said. "I think that open adoption is really in the best interest of the child, even if … it presents more challenges for the parents. So I encourage everyone who's thinking about adoption to seriously consider open adoption and not to be dissuaded by my essay."

Now, Savage's piece is getting the small screen treatment as one of 9 episodes included in Amazon Prime's adaption of the column. The episode inspired by Savage's essay, "Hers Was a World of One," contains some departures from Savage's original story — Savage's character, played by Fleabag's Andrew Scott, adopts a daughter rather than a son, for example, and the episode concludes closer to the upbeat note struck in the Podcast version of hist story than in the column.

Either way, we welcome any and all attention to the complexities of open adoption. Check out the episode (which also randomly includes Ed Sheeran in a couple scenes) and tell us what you think!

Personal Essays by Gay Dads

As a Gay Dad, What's the Impact of Letting My Son Perform Drag?

Michael Duncan was excited when his 10-year-old son asked if he could perform in drag for charity — but he also felt fear and anxiety.

As LGBT parents, we have all lived through some sort of trauma in our lives. For many it is the rejection of our family, being bullied, or abuse. We learn to be vigilant of our surroundings and often are very cautious of who we trust. As adults, we start to become watchful of how much we share and we look for "red flags" around every corner.

So, what effect does this have on our children? Does it unintentionally cause us to be more jaded with our interactions involving others? For some the answer may be a resounding "no." But as we look deeper into the situation, we often find that through survival our interactions with others have changed and we may not even realize exactly how much we are projecting on those around us.

Keep reading...
Diary of a Newly Out Gay Dad

A Gay Chiropractor Explains Why He Came Out to His Patients

After Cameron Call, a chiropractor, came out to his family this past year, he knew he had one more step to take — he had to come out to his patients

Fear is an interesting thing. It motivates when it shouldn't, shows at inconvenient times, and is the author of stories that do nothing but hold us back. I would argue though, too, that fear has some good qualities. I believe it helps us to feel. And I think it can be a great teacher as we learn to recognize and face it.

For years fear prevented me from embracing my truth and accepting a large part of who I am. I know I am not alone in that regard. But for so long my fear convinced me that I was. Fear is what kept me from ever telling my parents or anyone growing up that I am gay. Fear mingled with strong religious teachings, embraced at a young age, which led me to believe that I could cure myself of my attractions to the same gender. And fear is a part of what kept me in my marriage to a woman for over ten years.

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Personal Essays by Gay Dads

A Gay Dad Gains Clarity After a Health Scare

A recent health scare helped give Erik Alexander clarity.

Sometimes fear can cripple the mind and hinder ones judgement. Having children of my own, I have come to grips with accepting the things I cannot change and learned to take action when there is no other choice. When it comes to my own personal health, the future and well being of my family gives me all the clarity I need to make the right decision about any kind of health scare.

This episode is dedicated to all the parents out there that are going through or have gone through similar situations.

Keep reading...
Gay Dad Family Stories

This European Couple Became Dads Through a U.K.-Based Surrogacy Program

Janno, from Estonia, and Matthias, from Belgium, were accepted into the "Childlessness Overcome Through Surrogacy" Program.

Janno Talu, an accountant, and Matthias Nijs, an art gallery director, were born in different parts of Europe. Janno, 39, is from Estonia, and Matthias, 28, is from Belgium. Their paths crossed when the two moved to London, each from their different corners of the European Union.

Janno relocated to London earlier than Matthias, when he was 24, and his main reason for the move was his sexuality. "Although Estonia is considered one of the more progressive countries in Eastern Europe, when it comes to gay rights, it is still decades behind Western society in terms of tolerance," said Janno. "And things are not moving in the right direction." In 2016, same-sex civil union became legal, but the junior party in the current coalition government is seeking to repeal the same-sex partnership bill. "In addition," Janno continued, "they wish to include the definition of marriage as a union between a man and a woman in the country's constitution. Even today, there are people in Estonia who liken homosexuality to pedophilia, which is why I decided to start a new life in the UK, where I could finally be myself."

Keep reading...

Fatherhood, the gay way

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